We all have full lives, crowded schedules and constant demands on us. When people are busy, often the first thing that goes by the wayside is health. Even if you know what to do to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s easy to sacrifice a few hours of sleep each night to fit more into the day, or skip a week of exercise because you can’t find time, or choose the unhealthier, but easier, food for dinner.
But our physical health doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Everything we do is determined by our health—from our energy to get things done, to our ability to avoid getting sick when working under pressure, even to our ability to think and focus.
While our brain helps drive and guide us through life, it’s our body that is asked to do the heavy lifting day in and day out. If your body is weak and fatigued, your mental stamina and ability to focus will suffer as well. To be a high performer, no matter what you’re doing, you have to build your physical capacity.
What is Physical Capacity?
Physical capacity is your ability to improve your health, well-being and physical performance. It acts as either an accelerant or drag on your performance. When your physical capacity is strong, you have more endurance and resilience. When it is weak, doing anything is more difficult because you’ll lack the energy and ability to overcome stress needed to excel.
It’s easy to take health for granted. So many of us don’t pay enough attention until we get bad news, either with our own health, or that of a friend or loved one. I hit a turning point of my own in 2009, when I had panic attack triggered by extreme stress. At the time, when my heart was racing and I was collapsed to the floor, I thought I was having a fatal heart attack—and that moment compelled me to pay closer attention to my diet and exercise.
Nutrition and exercise routines can be confusing—what works for one person may not work for others. A good start is to be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Your diet has a profound effect on your daily life—if you make some positive changes in what you eat, you will quickly notice improvements in your energy and ability to focus.
For an exercise standpoint, it’s important to do a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training of some kind, whether that’s weight-lifting, yoga, Pilates or something similar. Remember that it’s never too late to start—I ran my first Olympic triathlon at 41, despite having never run over a mile out side of sports practice before I was 35.
But building physical capacity goes beyond just diet and exercise—another great way to start is focusing on stress management. Stress is often treated as an inevitability of life, and functioning under heavy stress, or on little sleep, is often considered heroic. You have to control your own schedule to combat stress—schedule 15 minute breaks throughout the day, and, whenever possible, get eight hours of sleep each night. You’ll notice a difference in your energy and focus.
Ask yourself—are you doing all you can to become all you can be? Do you consider health to be something that can be sacrificed to get through a busy day? Do you neglect to set aside time and energy to improving your physical performance? Are you doing what you can to live a less stressful life, even with something as simple as getting more sleep?
It’s never too late to start. Wherever you are building your capacity, you can certainly reach another level with the right improvements. The people closest to you deserve the best version of you.
-Robert Glazer, Author of Elevate
I want you to picture two people, John and Sarah. John is stressed throughout the day. When things are going well, he’s focused and high-performing, but when adversity strikes, he crumbles under pressure. Sarah is often described as resilient and unflappable. When Sarah encounters obstacles, she works through them quickly, and treats failure as a necessary part of learning. Great leaders look more like Sarah than John. When challenges strike, you need to be the one to rally your team and stay confident. No matter how talented, focused and purposeful you are, you have to have the emotional capacity to overcome adversity.
What is Emotional Capacity?
Emotional capacity is a measure of your ability to overcome limiting beliefs, your ease in adapting to challenging situations, and the quality of your relationships. No matter how talented, disciplined or values-driven you are, if you don’t have high emotional capacity, you’ll fall short of your goals eventually.
A challenge in building emotional capacity the self-limiting beliefs we place on ourselves. An example of this is a force called cognitive dissonance, when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs at the same time. Cognitive dissonance causes us to double down on harmful behavior, invest in negative relationships, and close our minds to information that challenges our preconceptions.
While it’s hard to see at first, a close-minded approach inevitably limits your ability to grow and reach your full potential. To build your emotional capacity, you must honestly evaluate your own mindset and become open to difficult feedback.
Many of us limit our potential without even realizing it, and it takes conscious effort to understand what is holding us back—and to address it. As a personal example: for years, I wanted to write a book, but I kept giving myself excuses to avoid doing it. That changed in 2016; while I was in the second year of a three year entrepreneurial masters program, I made a commitment that I would write a book by the time I reached my third year.
Simply changing my affirmation from, “I want to write a book,” to “I will write a book,” gave me the extra push I needed. I challenged my limiting beliefs, built my emotional capacity, and published my first book, Performance Partnerships, a year later. This year I published my second book, Elevate, which explores capacity building in detail.
Quality of Relationships
Building emotional capacity is not just about how you interact with your own mind—the quality of your relationships is also vital. Legendary entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” You need to surround yourself with people who give you energy, who genuinely care about helping you improve, and are not afraid to challenge you to do so.
Do you have many relationships with people like this? While it can feel good to spend time with people who always make you feel good and never expect you to change for the better, doing this will limit your ability to improve. Needless to say, it’s similarly damaging to spend time with people who are always tearing others down and blaming others for their shortcomings.
Think carefully about the people you spend the most time with—do they share your core values and respect you enough to tell you when you’re wrong? Are there people in your life who make you feel drained and dissatisfied? If you make a conscious effort to spend time with people who share your values and give you energy, while limited exposure to people who drain you, you’ll feel better in the long run.
What’s great about capacity building is that it empowers you to not just make yourself better, but to inspire those around you to grow alongside you. If you surround yourself with people who are as committed to achieving as you are, you’ll all push each other to keep growing. If you tackle each day with gratitude and are capable of adapting to adversity, you’ll set an example for people you lead to follow.
Ask yourself—are you doing all you can to become all you can be? Do you push aside your self-limiting beliefs and take adversity as an opportunity to improve, rather than a crushing setback? Are you spending time with people who want you to reach for full potential, rather than pulling you down to their level?
You already know the answers to these questions. Wherever you are in your journey to build capacity, you can reach another level. The people closest to you deserve the best version of you.
-Robert Glazer, Author of Elevate
While it’s vital to know what you want in life, getting clarity on that is only part of the journey. Even if you have a clear vision for your ideal life, you then need to develop the skills necessary to achieve it, build the required discipline into your life, and the right goals to bring your vision to life.
So many people believe their abilities are fixed, and that they cannot change their intellectual capability or their discipline. However, we are all capable of strengthening our ability to execute consistently and gradually build toward our goals.
What is Intellectual Capacity?
Do you love the feeling of going to bed at night feeling fulfilled and knowing you made the best of our time that day? Of course you do. If you’d like to feel that way more often, the key is to building your Intellectual Capacity.
Intellectual Capacity is your ability to think, learn, plan and execute with discipline. A helpful analogy is to think of it as your processor or operating system—building this capacity allows you to do more in less time and with less energy.
It sounds obvious but it’s true—a huge part of building your Intellectual Capacity is to believe that you can do it. High achievers are always looking for opportunities to learn more and improve themselves. They recognize that mistakes are not just a part of life, but an opportunity to learn. They understand that failing at something today is a necessary step towards mastering it in the future.
Improving requires us to understand what our weaknesses are. Some of that can be done by taking an honest look at ourselves, but often we need to turn to others. Think about the people in your life who know you well and who you can trust to be honest with you about your shortcomings. In some cases, you’ll receive feedback that will be difficult to hear, but part of capacity building means being open to feedback and using it to grow.
Once you have a sense of where you want to improve, seek out the resources that will help. A great strategy is to pick a topic you want to learn more about, research the most respected books about that topic, purchase two or three—or check them out of a library—and set aside time to read them. Or, for a quicker download, research podcasts those authors have been on, listen to them, and learn their best points.
It’s a simple idea, but it’s a great way to upgrade your knowledge—soon, you’ll find yourself handling these topics faster and smarter and making better decisions.
But Intellectual Capacity goes beyond your knowledge and ability to process information—it also involves setting clear goals that build toward your purpose and core values and moving toward them each day.
Have you written any goals for yourself—either for the year, or further in the future? If you haven’t, you need to; you won’t reach the achievements you want by coincidence. You have to think about what you want and set clear goals that will get you there.
Setting goals is an area where I’ve completely changed my approach, for the better. In the past, I would routinely set and accomplish year-long goals, but found myself frustrated when those wins didn’t get me closer to what I wanted to achieve in my life.
The problem is that while achieving goals always feels like an accomplishment, they only will change the trajectory of your life if your quarterly and annual goals feed into your five and 10 year goals. And don’t just pick goals that sound impressive to the outside world, make sure they’re aligned to what you want.
You can say you want to be CEO of a company as a lifetime goal, but if actually leading a business is not something you want, you won’t be fulfilled when you get there. Maybe you really want to be painting on a farm in the countryside. It’s your life, don’t let others define success for you.
When it comes to setting goals, quality is far more important than quantity. If you set 100 goals for your life, you’ll probably hit a lot of them, but you’ll also be pulled in too many directions and may miss out on the most important ones. I’ve found it useful to set a small number of goals that are most important to me and pushing everything else to the side whenever possible.
I know I will feel most fulfilled by those few goals and they are aligned to my core values, so that is where I focus the majority of my time and energy. If I achieve all my most fulfilling goals, I am confident that I won’t be worrying about the less important ones.
Once you have your goals, it’s important to align your daily life towards pursuing them. It was valuable for me to have a constant reminder of what I was pursuing in the long-term, so I created a tool called the Whole Life Dashboard. This tool is a combination of a self-actualization exercise and an accountability tracker—you can enter your top long-term goals and re-read them each day to stay aligned and on track.
Building your Intellectual Capacity isn’t a quick or easy process, but if you commit to making incremental progress each day, you’ll see significant results sooner than you think.
In can be natural to want to achieve something, but feeling as though you lack the ability to do so. It’s vital to understand that any person is capable of building their intellectual capacity. If you take time to learn, set clear goals for yourself, and execute with discipline, you’ll find yourself on a path to what you really want.
-Robert Glazer, Author of Elevate
You’ve probably heard this term before—burnout. Sometimes it feels like you have too much to do, but even though you’ve never worked harder, you feel less fulfilled at the end of the day.
If you feel burnout, you’re not alone. According to a Gallup study, 67 percent of American workers report feeling burned out at least some of the time, or even most of the time.
What’s most difficult about burnout is that it can feel as if there is no way out. We cannot add more hours to the day and nobody wants to put things like personal passions and relationships on hold because they’re overwhelmed at work.
Fortunately, burnout doesn’t have to last forever. I know this for a fact, because I’m no stranger to the feeling.
I felt burnout in 2005 when I was working at a startup; I was completely miserable and worried that hopping to yet another job would hurt my career. I felt it in 2009, when I worked myself into enough stress to cause a panic attack that landed me in the hospital. I felt it in 2011, when my company, Acceleration Partners, was growing, but I had completely maxed myself out getting to that point.
I didn’t know why I kept repeating this cycle until I realized I needed a better understanding of what I was trying to get out of life. That’s when I discovered that my spiritual capacity was low.
What is Spiritual Capacity?
The term “spiritual capacity” describes the degree to which you understand who you are and what you want most. Building your spiritual capacity is a journey of self-discovery; it means taking time to understand your what is intrinsically motivating you, and what actually makes you happy.
It’s daunting work, but it’s extremely important—if you don’t know what you want from life, you may spend all your energy running in the wrong direction and be left unfulfilled when you reach your goals. Even if you succeed at something, if it is not aligned with your purpose and values, you will likely feel unsatisfied and drained.
The first step in building spiritual capacity is to develop your core values. Start by setting aside time, putting away distractions and thinking carefully about yourself. When are you happiest? When are you most drained of energy? What types of people and situations are most frustrating for you? Pose these same questions to your family and close friends—often they can provide novel insights.
Putting thought into these questions will help you recognize consistent themes in your life and identify what makes you happiest. One of my core values is “long-term orientation,” which means I am most fulfilled when I’m setting and pursuing long-term goals—whether in my personal or professional life. I have found I just don’t get as much satisfaction from short-term wins.
Identifying your core values will give you a GPS for decision-making in your daily life. While it’s not possible to make everything we do connect to our core values, we can make conscious choices to spend more time doing what fulfills us and to give less energy to things that don’t.
In researching my new book, Elevate, I’ve realized that lasting achievement requires building capacity in four areas—spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional. Spiritual capacity is perhaps the most difficult of the four because it requires us to find clarity about our inner selves. Identifying personal core values and an overarching purpose can be a demanding task—and some of us can even be intimidated by the potential of discovering what we want most.
However, building spiritual capacity is foundational to a fulfilling life. People don’t achieve the life they want by accident; they do it by carefully defining their core purpose and values, and aligning their daily actions to pursue those things.
My workload isn’t any lighter than it was at other points in my life, times when I felt stretched to the breaking point. What has changed is that the majority of the work I do now serves my purpose: to find a better way and share it. I don’t feel drained when I’m working toward my core purpose—even after a long day of working in support of my core values, I feel energized and fulfilled.
For those who are struggling with burnout, I suggest you ask yourself if you know what you want and if you have thought about what your core values are. My guess is that many of people have not, because it is difficult work, and most people don’t know where to start. I know I didn’t until I was well into my adult life, and now I wish I had grown my spiritual capacity sooner.
If you’re working as hard as you can but feel you haven’t been rewarded with a fulfilling life, you’re not alone. To make a change, start building your spiritual capacity. Once you discover what you really want, make a plan to reach your goals. I think you’ll find that life is easier when you have a roadmap.
-Robert Glazer, Author of Elevate
In 2015, I decided to start sending an email every Friday to my company, Acceleration Partners. Rather than simply providing an update on the business, like many CEO wrap-ups, I wanted to inspire people with topics related to improvement and growth, aiming to challenge employees to want to achieve more in all areas of their lives, not just at work.
I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be, but I wondered if my emails would be skimmed, or even ignored. To my surprise, employees started telling me they looked forward to the messages each week and were sharing them with friends and family. The weekly emails were also having a noticeable impact within our company - members of our team started running races, taking bucket list vacations and improving their professional performance.
After sharing the impact it had with a few other business leaders who subsequently shared it with their teams, I renamed it Friday Forward, opened it to the public and encouraged readers to spread it to colleagues, friends and family. Today, over 100,000 people read it each week, in over 60 countries.
What I learned from my Friday Forward experiment, and the impact I’ve seen it have on so many people I haven’t even met, is the ability to elevate your performance and achieve at a high level stems directly from challenging your limits and building your capacity for growth. And when you do this for yourself, you provide motivation and a roadmap for others to follow. We all have a responsibility to be our best for the people around us, and unlocking this potential—in myself and in others—has become an ongoing quest for me.
It’s the driving factor behind my leadership approach to building a world-class company, pushing myself and others outside of their comfort zone, and of my recently published book, Elevate.
In my own leadership journey, and in speaking with hundreds of others who have made meaningful and sustained changes in their lives, I’ve discovered that there are four essential elements involved in capacity-building and all self-improvement: Spiritual, Intellectual, Emotional, and Physical. Elevating your performances holistically requires working to grow your capacity in each of these areas.
Building capacity is similar to developing a muscle—a person who wants to lift a heavy weight must first work to build physical strength over time. Each of the four capacity-building elements must be improved incrementally and developed consistently.
Developing our spiritual capacity requires us to evaluate who we are and what we want most from life, then align that to our daily lives. This starts with determining our core beliefs and values, which can be difficult for many as it involves deep introspection and self-assessment. Building spiritual capacity is vital to a fulfilling life—if you don’t have a destination in mind, you may waste a lot of time and energy running in the wrong direction. Discovering my core values and my core purpose and using that awareness to make decisions about my priorities and goals took my life to a different level. To make this process a bit easier, I created a tool called the Whole Life Dashboard that helps you determine what’s most important to you and how to align to it daily.
Intellectual capacity is about how we improve our ability to think, learn, plan, and execute with discipline. Developing our intellectual capacity often involves setting and achieving goals, developing good routines and habits, and learning continuously. Think of it as improving your operating system.
The greater your intellectual capacity, the more you will achieve with the same expenditure of energy or effort. For example, a daily morning routine is one of the main characteristics that many high achievers have in common. They use the first 30-60 minutes of the day to get in the right mindset and think about their goals for the day—not to check their social channels and their email. In my experience, I've seen that people who do this accomplish so much more within the same 24 hours.
Physical capacity is our ability to improve our health, well-being, and physical performance. While our brain helps drive and guide us through life, it’s our body that is asked to do the heavy lifting day in and day out. That’s why it’s so important to maintain our health and wellness, challenge ourselves, manage our stress, and get the proper amount of sleep. When your body is tired and sluggish or your brain is fatigued, it makes doing anything more difficult.
Building physical capacity goes beyond just diet and exercise—it also requires us to manage how we deal with stress, how resilient we are in the face of adversity, and how we equip ourselves to face inevitable adversity.
Emotional capacity relates to how we react to challenging situations and people, as well as the quality of our relationships. Improving emotional capacity is difficult for most as it requires learning to manage your feelings, evaluate the best and most challenging aspects of your personality, and accepting a certain amount of uncertainty and unpredictability from both individuals and circumstances.
For example, if two people have a negative interaction with somebody early in the day, a person with a high degree of emotional capacity can shrug it off, move past it, and continue with their day and their priorities. The person without this capacity is rattled and lets this interaction consume and ruin their entire day. People with high emotional capacity generally are able to cope with challenges quickly and move on from setbacks. They also have positive relationships with people who bring them energy and move away from people who drain their energy.
One of the most important outcomes of building your Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical, and Emotional Capacity is the exponential impact it has on others, including friends, family, and those around you. It has the effect of “lifting while you climb.” As you build your own capacity and achieve more, you both inspire and develop the ability to help others to do the same.
-Robert Glazer, author of Elevate
For more on building your capacities, check out Elevate>>